Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Grading - from the TA Corner

Essay #2 Notes – Jonathan Eng
As I finished up grading Essay #2 frantically over the Thanksgiving holiday in an effort to have it ready for my students by Friday morning in between spending it with friends and my Black Friday shopping, I spent the weekend reflecting on the quality of the essays while I spent the weekend on a camping and 16-mile hiking trip at the Grand Canyon in 30-degree temperature. Through the reflection and grading period, I was able to take a few good and bad things away from the essays.

  • Overall improvement: The overall grades of the essays were much higher than Essay #1. The quality was much better and they were easier to read and get through.
  • Better understanding of sources:  One of the main improvements was the understanding of what primary and secondary sources are. As we all know, primary sources are the recordings (letters, sound bytes, photos, speeches, posters, other documents, etc.)  of history and historical events by the people who were at the time there to witness it. Secondary sources are written by historians who take primary sources and write about them; historians use primary sources to form an argument so the history is from their perspective (a secondary one).
  •  Better understanding of directions of prompt: I had provided my students with a guideline of using 75% primary sources and 25% secondary sources to write their essay. They also seemed to better adhere to the page guideline although there were some who occasionally wrote too much. Following instructions for the paper makes it not only easier for the students to do well but it makes it much easier on the weary TA who has to grade all of them.

  • Weak/vague thesis: Students still had a hard time coming up with a clear and concise thesis. I have told my students (and this makes sense from a grammatical and essay format perspective) that the purpose of the thesis is to outline what the rest of the essay will look like. A good thesis will be able to give a clear picture to the umbrella of what the essay will talk about. Under that umbrella of the thesis comes sub-points A, B, C, D, etc. Those sub-points are the body paragraphs that follow the introduction paragraph. Furthermore, those sub-points can be divided even further into the three examples the students were supposed to use to support their overall argument.
  • Examples and analysis still weak: Students still had a hard time picking good examples. Good analysis is only as good as the examples used. A good amount of students did not properly explain the significance of the example used and how they support the overall arguments.

Final verdict: The students have shown improvement and that makes me happy to see that. It seems the students are learning and growing with the information and are improving their writing skills. Also, their understanding of history is cemented in their improving ability to communicate it through their writing. Now that Essay #2 is behind us, onward to Essay #3!

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